Let's Discuss Agency in the PYP
In 2018, when the enhanced PYP was published, all PYP teachers were discussing the word Agency by asking the following questions:
- What will it look like?
- How do we implement it?
- How do we measure it?
- Why is it important?
- How do we discuss it with the parent community?
- How will it impact our daily planning?
- Which PD do we need to attend to understand it?
As a PYP educator, the word was not only new to me, but also not easy to translate in some languages like Arabic or French. However, if we read in detail the document published by the IB, we discover that many practices are already in place. Here are a few examples:
The relationship between a teacher and a student is viewed as a partnership
The IB uses the words choice, voice and ownership to define agency which reminds me of an article that I published in 2015 on the PYP blog "Do you hear their voice?"
This article discussed how students are partners with teachers and how they decide on the units of inquiry, design learning experiences and reflect on the units during the collaborative planning time.
Teachers monitor learning and provide feedback
This sentence reminds me of all the daily practices in our classes and all the feedback provided by the teachers. The parent-teacher-student conference ( the 3-way conference) is a great example to illustrate this practice where our teachers prepare a document with the strengths of the student, their areas for improvement and in the presence of the parents they discuss them and write an action plan together with the student for the last term of the year.
Students voice opinions
Our assemblies are a great example because they are prepared by students for students where they share their learning with the whole school community. Each week a class leads the assembly and shares new ideas with others.
Our student council is another practice that we have in place where the student's voice is valued. At the beginning of each academic year, each class holds an election (from grade 1) and they will vote for 2 students who will be part of the student council.
The student council meet with the leadership team once per month (Principal, IB coordinator, Finance team) and share ideas to improve the school. Some of the ideas might be related to the food in the cafeteria, equipment in the playground, designing a garden and more and more…
A learning community
A learning community that supports agency offers opportunities for students to develop important skills and dispositions, such as critical and creative thinking, perseverance, independence and confidence.
We introduced an idea connected to flexible timetabling to promote the spirit of the family and the one community of learners. This idea was implemented between January and March every year, during one session per week. We mixed all our students from grades 1 till grade 5 into 10 different classes. Each class had students from grade 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 and usually we kept siblings together.
The classes worked with 2 teachers for 10 weeks to learn and prepare a presentation about one country. The presentations took place at the end of the term during our International Day celebration and showed a lot of creativity and confidence.
The implementation of Agency starts with very simple actions from day one of this academic year. Once you write your essential agreement as a community of learners, once trust and respect are shared, once you involve the students in designing the learning environment you will be preparing yourself and your students for a rich and unique experience of learning and growth.
Let's Discuss Agency Webinar
View the webinar recording here.
”A learning community that supports agency offers opportunities for students to develop important skills and dispositions, such as critical and creative thinking, perseverance, independence and confidence."
About the Author
Contributing Author Ali Ezzeddine:
Ali Ezzeddine is a trilingual educator. Ali’s passion is to start new IB World schools. He is a published author, writing and publishing Arabic books and sharing his love for reading and writing in schools around the world.